If you're married and reading this, tell me something — if you were to ask your spouse, right now, to define how you make them feel within the marriage and they could only use one word, what do you think your partner would say? As someone who has sat across from countless couples, I'll tell you something that I hear more than I ever should — "My spouse makes me feel judged."
Because I'm about to break a lot of what judgment means in just a sec, let me just say in the intro that if you currently feel like there is tension or a disconnect or some sort of lack of emotional intimacy within your relationship, I wouldn't be shocked if it has, at least something to do with the fact that, one or both of you is feeling judged far more than either of you ever should. The good news is there is something that you can do to (semi) easily redirect that energy. Let's see what that hack is.
First of All, Judging Isn’t Automatically or Always a Bad Thing
I believe I've shared before that, if there's one thing that I was over, well before it ever really began, it's how folks act like judge (which is a five-letter word) is a four-letter word (a cuss word). Usually when people want to have this conversation with me about this, the first thing I say is, "If someone tells you that you are cute, guess what? They just judged you." I mean, beauty pageants and talent shows have judges and in those instances, to most, it's all good. What people don't like is correction and/or criticism. And that usually speaks to an issue of ego.
And before some of y'all bring in the Bible on this, like so much of Scripture that gets fractionated in order to make folks feel more comfortable (for example, people quoting that God will give them the desires of their heart without adding in the part where he says delight in him first or folks saying that he who is without sin should cast the first stone without adding in the part where Christ also said "go and sin no more" to the sinner), yes, Matthew 7:1 does say "Judge not, that you be not judged." However, Matthew 7:2 swings around and then says, "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."
This means that you should take into account that the way you judge someone is how you will get judged back — one way or another. Besides, Luke 6:37 states, "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" and Matthew 6:14-15 states, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" and still, people find a billion-and-one ways to justify why they shouldn't forgive others (hmm…). Let me stay on topic, though.
When you factor in what Matthew 7 says along with what John 7:24 instructs ("Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.") and then you stop to ponder the fact that judging literally means things like "acute discernment" (the Good Book is all over us needing to operate with discernment) along with "the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion" — I don't know how you are able to make sound and wise decisions in life unless you are able to make good judgment calls. And when you're married, I'm not sure how you can effectively hold your partner accountable — as they do the same thing for you; some folks conveniently want to overlook that part — unless some "judging" is involved too.
So no, I absolutely don't have a problem with judging or being judged. What does need to go on record is the fact that anything that's out of balance is problematic. Judging is not excluded. So, let's touch on that before I get to my overall and bottom line point.
Here’s Where Judging Can Go WAY Left, Though
Anything that isn't kept in check can get totally out of hand. Judging definitely applies. In fact, that's a part of the reason why I wrote "Are You His Partner Or His Second Mama?" for this platform because, the reality is, many people don't judge for accountability's sake; many do it in order to boss people around, act like they are better than others or — most importantly — to deflect from their own issues. And just how can you know that you are someone who falls into this kind of space?
- In your mind, your feelings are the facts. About everything.
- You're inflexible when it comes to other perspectives.
- You are hypercritical.
- You're constantly correcting (yet don't want to be corrected).
- YOU. DON'T. LISTEN. TO. OTHERS.
- You expect perfection from those around you (even though you want to be excused for your own faults and flaws).
- You constantly jump to conclusions.
- You're not a safe space for folks to share their vulnerabilities.
- You are short on patience and tolerance.
- Everything is black-and-white.
- You're unforgiving.
- You make statements more than ask questions (bookmark that one).
While all of this can certainly apply to everyone, regardless of their relational status, since we're dealing with marriage today, I'm gonna focus on it from that angle. That said, although there are plenty of articles out here that vouch for the fact that poor communication, financial challenges and a lack of intimacy are reigning reasons for why many marriages fall apart, I stand amazed by how few choose to touch on just how much being overly-judgmental can tear down an intimate relationship too.
For one thing, who wants to be in that kind of space all of the time — a space that puts you on eggshells, keeps you anxious and has you totally stressed out? If there is one place where these things shouldn't exist at a very bare minimum, it's in your home and within your marriage. Also, when folks signed up for "'til death do us part", no one wanted to marry a dictator or a second parent. Indeed, some folks really struggle with understanding that their spouse is not their subordinate or their child. And third, people don't grow in a space where they are constantly ridiculed or berated and if there is one thing that marriage should do, it should help both people to flourish — mind, body and spirit.
So yes, while I do think that a certain amount of judgment — again, based on definitions like "the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion" — is necessary, in both directions (don't "dish it" if you can't "take it"), in order for a husband and wife to grow, as individuals and a unit, if you know that you can check at least four out of the 12 things that I said, some things without your relationship and how you relate to your partner are totally out of wack. This means that you are doing more harm than good to your relationship and it's time to bring things back to the middle. And just how do you do that? This is where wondering comes in.
This Is Why the Act of Wondering Can Be a More Effective Approach
So, when I listed some of the signs that someone is too judgmental, do you recall how I suggested that you bookmark the 12th point? Boy, the way you can connect so much better with your partner when you make it a point to not tell them what to do or how to think (or what they are thinking) and instead, to ask questions — it really is like night and day.
Questions bring a respectful tone to the conversation. Questions bring forth clarity. Questions convey the message that you genuinely want to hear where someone else is coming from because you know that communication isn't just about you talking all of the time and not giving someone else the platform to be heard. And to me, questioning is a form of wondering because wondering is about curiosity and curiosity is about being eager to learn. And trust me, until you and your partner part (either by divorce or through death), there will always be something that you need to learn about them because they will always be transitioning and evolving.
And honestly, this is one more reason why being super judgmental can create a wedge between two people; it's because when you are constantly judging your partner, not only are you arrogantly conveying (even if it's subconsciously) that there is nothing else you need to learn about them or your relationship, you're also shutting down the path for your spouse to want to share more about themselves. In fact, when it comes to a lot of the couples that I've worked with where infidelity was an issue, having a judgmental partner (on the front end) definitely played a big role because, since the one who cheated felt like their spouse didn't want to learn more about their wants and needs, they found themselves gravitating to an individual who actually did. Yeah, that's another thing about being judgmental — it can damper your intimacy (physically and emotionally) because no one really finds that appealing or attractive.
A preventative measure to avoid all of this is to judge less and wonder more.
You know, there is an author by the name of Betty Smith who described wonder in a way that I like a lot. She once said, "Look at everything as though you were seeing it for the first time or the last time. Then your time on earth will be filled with glory." Remember when you and your man were first getting to know each other? It was difficult to be super judgmental because everything was so new and exciting. And while it is a bit unrealistic to expect you to return to that exact mindset, what I will say is every day is new and if you are being even a little observant, you will get that within each day is an opportunity to learn something new about your partner and/or take a new approach to the relationship.
For instance, ask him instead of telling him what he thinks; then don't listen in order to respond — listen in order to grasp his feelings, insights, perspectives, wants and needs. The "wonder of it all" can help you to become more embracing and tolerant as he becomes more trusting and comfortable (and vice versa).
Listen, I know husbands who have a super judgmental wife and wives who have a super judgmental husband. What they all have in common is it takes everything in them, on a daily basis, to not leave (I'm not exaggerating either). Just something to keep in mind if you think that judging over wondering is not "all that bad". Indeed, it is and I would hate for you to — pardon the pun — wonder if you should've taken this approach a lot sooner, once you realize that it may be too late.
Judge less. Wonder more. Watch how it blesses your marriage. Truly.
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